S, OS

Im just so frustrated at the moment.

Im sitting in a swanky little bar not far from the Old Quarter in Ha Noi in Viet Nam. It overlooks one of the five lakes that are a feature of this ancient city. Its wet and chilly. (Not the lake, which is, of course, but the weather.)

When I was here last year it was hot but Im still wearing sandals in this high-class bar. (The beer costs nearly a dollar.) I can do anything I want Im a big fat white man.

This place is all jazz music, comfy seating and very good vodka and tonics (with just a squeeze of lime). The staff here call me Mr S.

Im here because I have a newspaper deadline to meet and the internet connection at my hotel failed as surely as the American war. And newspaper deadlines must be met. Full stop.

I have just loaded my wireless connection thing here and I have no signal. Grrrrr.

Im at my wits end.

I have never missed a deadline. If I do Ill have to stay here. Wouldnt that be bad? Beautiful, smart people and cheap beer.

Look, Im a hippie at heart. What am I doing travelling in Asia with a computer and wireless technology and, most disturbing of all, a job!?

Theyll chuck me out of the hippie union. I wont be allowed into Nimbin. (200kms south of here there is a town called Nimh Binh. They have an endangered primate rescue centre there. I want to go. Old hippies are an endangered primate and maybe they have a clean sarong for me and an environmental issue I can get my teeth into there. Right now I need rescuing. Bloody internet.)

Im drinking Tiger beer. I havent had lunch and am still struggling with the technology.

No signal.

Jesus! I sigh, attracting the attention of Mr Ta Trang who is a waiter here.

Mr S?

Internet not working. Computer no go, I say in that sort of pidgin English I use to communicate with people who are trying to learn real English. Just so they dont ever get it right. In a country where people can speak two languages, I feel inadequate.

Mebbe I fix for you, Mr S.

Yeah right. Why is he being so nice to me? My country came all the way over here to help the Americans rip this place apart. You can still see people with missing limbs begging stuck-up tourists for a few cents. From the air the crater holes from the relentless bombing have become little lakes that cross the paddies in straight lines.

Yeah, you get computer work. I get Tiger, okay? I say draining the last of my beer.

Okay, says Mr Ta Trang. I try fix for you.

When I return to my table with two Tigers, badly poured (it really is an art), Mr Ta Trang has reconfigured my wireless set-up, accessed a network, validated the settings, and is wiping my beer spills from the table.

Im online!

Mr Ta Trang is now my very good friend. Hes smarter than me (he won the war) but he likes to talk to me. His English is getting worse.


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